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Chris Lusk's forest ecology site


I work mainly on forest dynamics and plant physiological ecology. I'm interested in reconciling New Zealand's strange flora and vegetation with ecological theory, and in understanding the implications of introduced mammals and climate change for New Zealnd vegetation.

My main current research project, funded by the Royal Society of NZ, uses New Zealand's divaricate plants and their broadleaved congeners as a model system for testing a new hypothesis about the evolution of anti-browsing defences in woody plants. This is a multidisciplinary project, bringing molecular phylogenetics together with experimental ecology and environmental modelling, and involving Susan Wiser and Rob Smissen from Landcare Research, Daniel Laughlin (University of Wyoming) and Andrew Tanentzap (University of Cambridge)

I'm also just starting a project funded by University of Waikato, examining the influence of climate in modulating tree species sorting across landforms throughout New Zealand.

Past and current student research topics:

  • Primary succession on glacial moraines in Patagonia
  • Influence of overstorey species identity on resource availability and composition of advanced regeneration in a temperate rainforest in southern Chile
  • Natural selection on leaf traits of Blechnum ferns in Chilean rainforest
  • Vascular function and distribution patterns of lianas in Chilean temperate rainforest
  • Shade and drought tolerance of Chilean evergreen Nothofagus species
  • Leaf size and light interception in tropical and temperate Australian rainforest tree seedlings
  • Influences of ontogeny and soil fertility on light interception, carbon gain and shade tolerance of Australian subtropical rainforest trees
  • Seedling growth versus shade tolerance relationships in cool- and warm-temperate New Zealand rainforest trees
  • Comparative gas exchange and vascular function of divaricate and broadleaved congeners
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